November 10, 2009

Do women write "female" poetry?

I didn't ask the question. It was posted by Jo Shapcott today on

A related question has been knocking around in my head for the past few weeks: "Do women genuinely write different poems from men and, if so, what could be said to characterise the 'female' poem?" The occasion which prompted the question happened yesterday, when the Aldeburgh poetry festival and the Poetry Society combined to host an event called The Female Poem, which I chaired, and which boasted a distinguished panel of writers: Maureen Duffy, Annie Freud and Pascal Petit. It was so popular that it sold out in minutes and had to be moved to a larger hall, which suggests the subject is urgent – and not just to women; our audience was mixed.

What's your answer to that question?


  1. I believe in the value of poetry, so much so that I would not think to genderize it. To genderize poetry is to subject it to unneccessary bigotry by separating it from “male” poetry. What sorts of characteristics, I wonder, are attributed to “female” poems that cannot be observed in supposed “male” poems? And if we really are discussing the poem itself and not its writer, doesn’t this then mean that a “female” poem can be produced by someone other than a woman? The question indeed is multifaceted and I think we would need to discuss what sorts of preconceived notions we as readers are bringing to the poem. The poem can only be what we project it to be. Also on a final note, prehaps such labels – male, female, black, white – carry too much of a loaded history to ever be effective in poetry analysis. Those among us know that even if something negative is ultimately not meant by the term itself, its use historically as a marker of not mere difference but of greater or lesser value is retained as the residual effect of that turbulent, lop-sided history.

  2. Of course we all know that men and women are different in their equality. Nevertheless is quite difficult to distinguish between their poetry's production in the same way it's hard to separate men's and female's thought; though I expect female's poetry to be more maternal, softer, sweeter and stronger at the same time. It's not very easy to say, anyway! Albix


** All comments must be approved by the site administrator before appearing in order to prevent spam.